The Goodland Civic Association (GCA) has recently experienced 10 solid years of growth and is enjoying a popularity not known since 2000-2001. It was in those two years however, that the GCA achieved the pinnacle of community service and accomplishment, successfully completing or initiating several major projects which were to have a lasting positive effect on our quality of life.
Incorporated in 1978 by about 35 town residents, the GCA had to meet in peoples’ homes, restaurants, the local church (then known as the Mission Annex of the Baptist Church), and at the Margood Meeting Hall. Until 1993, membership was stuck on a core of about 30 members, many of whom had founded the GCA 15 years before. The GCA was meeting only a couple times a year; attendance was sporadic and participation was desultory.
In 1992, the GCA finally got its own building, when the Marco Island Fire Department donated their vacated fire station at 417 Mango Avenue. It was thence known as the Goodland Community Center (See “The Goodland Civic Association – The Early Years” at coastalbreezenews.com)
The residents loved having their own meeting place, and membership surged for a while. “By the mid ‘90s, we had 325 members and as much as $75,000 in our treasury,” recalls Vicki Wood, who has held virtually every office on the board of directors, “A lot of the income came from parking cars [for the Sunday crowds at Stan’s] at $10 a car.” The building brought a lot of new problems and expenses however, not the least of which were maintenance and insurance. The GCA was not accustomed to wrestling with these problems, and disagreements developed in dealing with them. Membership began to fall off again.
In this December 2001 edition, area merchants are still responding to the 2001 GCA PR campaign. Many are still around today. For $25 a merchant could advertise in all six of the 2001 editions of the “Good News in Goodland.”
Ed and Connie Fullmer arrived in Goodland in February 1998, moving down from Marco Island. They immediately joined the GCA and immersed themselves in Goodland politics. They were appalled at what they found. “The GCA membership had dwindled to about 30 people and the treasury was empty,” Connie said, “We had to go hat in hand to some of our residents just to be able to pay our bills. Irene Habermehl, the longtime GCA Secretary and Treasurer, was particularly generous in helping.”
In January 1999, Ed was elected Vice President and Connie, Secretary. Between the two of them, for the next eight years, they held every office on the GCA Board and were in the forefront of a resurgent and active membership, who would fight doggedly and successfully to keep the developers at bay and preserve the character of Goodland. The first need was cash. Ed Fullmer was just the guy to bring it in.
Ed has regaled me with stories about how he and his minions, parked cars on Shelly Balante’s parking lot at the corner of Goodland Road and Sunrise Court, charging $10 per car, extracting Yankee dollars from tourists visiting Stan’s. Ed gradually co-opted the swales along nearby streets, including Sunrise Court and Angler Drive, which was particularly lucrative. Angler Drive was then mostly large swales alongside a small entry road into the Marina property. “You could get an awful lot of cars in there,” Ed said, “We were literally bringing in thousands of dollars on some weekends.” (Ed turned that job over to me, along with a lot of good advice, in 2008.)
Connie’s strong suit was organizational. Her first goal was to increase the size of the GCA membership. “This would give us broader base of support [and another source of revenue],” Connie said. In Connie’s opinion, the GCA had become sclerotic and irrelevant. A committee was formed, which started setting up tables in front of restaurants, the post office, and Margood Park for the purpose of registering new members. For ten bucks, a guy or gal could get a one-year membership along with a nifty pink card; for $15, they could add their whole family. Connie and her crew poured on the charm and once again membership started rebounding. One of the new members was Pam Stoppelbein, who as secretary would play a major role in the GCA’s resurgence.
An ambitious public relations campaign was undertaken in an effort to gain the hearts and minds of Goodland residents. It was brilliant and sincere… and it worked. It caught the attention of every virtually every Goodland property owner, renter, and merchant. No one could escape hearing about the good things the GCA was up to.
The GCA had established a website, was published a monthly newsletter (mailed to every resident and property owner, whether here or up north), issued press releases, and organized or participated in over 17 community events and fundraisers. According to Vicki Wood, a board member, GCA had a membership approaching 300 in 2001.
The GCA called its newspaper “Good News in Goodland.” It was chock full of Goodland news, scheduled events, and ads from area merchants. There were at least six issues published in 2001, only one of which survives in the archives. Area merchants paid $25 for a year’s worth of ads.
Members were working together and getting to know each other through the planning and staffing of those 17 community events and fundraisers. Others were busy renovating the community center on their own time, making the attic into an office, and installing a downstairs rest room and kitchen, among other projects. Members meetings were called more often and were characterized by camaraderie and good will. It was an era of good feeling, trust, and determined leadership which enabled the GCA to fight a series of successful rear guard actions against those builders and developers who had a different vision for the future of Goodland. It was also the beginning of a partnership with Collier County, which has remained close and cordial to this day. The GCA would need all of that goodwill and trust in the months ahead.
This article was gleaned mostly from extant GCA archives, interviews with surviving participants, and the author’s knowledge of Goodland history. On the drawing board are articles about what that membership accomplished to preserve Goodland’s unique life style and situation. I say that the membership accomplished this, as I could find no record of any board meetings during this period or, for that matter, in any prior period dating back to 1978, when the GCA was founded. The GCA’s business had been conducted at general membership meetings and carried out by committees, of which in 2001, there were well over a dozen. This was a time of actual government by the people. That they succeeded was a testament to their unity, dedication, and commitment.
Next up – The Goodland Overlay.
Barry was a practicing attorney before he worked as a Special Agent of the FBI for 31 years. Barry worked for several government agencies another ten years before retiring to Goodland in 2006. Barry is a former Secretary of the Goodland Civic Association.